… let me begin like this. I generally appreciate your work on the Digital Agenda. (although there are still a lot of obstacles in Europe that need to be tackled!) Your team is doing a great job in developing this important policy. You seem to take interactions with citizens seriously and you have shown that Commissioners can indeed be innovative. The Digital Agenda is one of these rare EU policies that could really make a difference across Europe – and even worldwide.
So why ruin everything by appointing Karl Theodor Maria Georg Achaz Eberhardt Josef Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg as your special/personal advisor?
Technology can support human rights, but we must also ensure it is not used against those struggling for freedom. I want Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to champion this cause with governments and NGOs and ensure it gets the attention, focus and support it deserves. – Neelie Kroes
During your press conference you said you wanted “talent and not saints”. Fair enough, but are you sure that he has the necessary talent? His political achievements in Germany are mediocre at best. His rethoric has always trumped his policies. He is a master of blaming others for his failures. He is unable to admit mistakes. Very frankly, he is an aristocratic snob who could not care less about the problems of online activists and the rights of bloggers. I have never heard of any achievement that would qualify him to work on these issues. Mr zu Guttenberg has never been an advocate for the freedom of the internet. In fact he has been in favour of net censorhip and supported the German government in introducing a more restrictive net surveillance policy. He has no track record whatsover.
The question is why did you not appoint someone with a more substantive track record in online human rights policy? And more importantely, since this advisory role is about the international impact of the digital agenda, why did you not involve the EEAS in your decision? (Update: The EEAS was involved. – see comments)
Moreover, online activists were responsible for his resignation when they revealed hat Mr zu Guttenberg plagiarised his PhD thesis. He is not a credible choice for the job in question. You say that ‘if anyone understands the power of the internet, and its power to hold authorities to account, it is Karl-Theodor.‘ This may be true. However, the problem is that Mr zu Guttenberg never gave the impression that he shares this assessment. He never said anything positive about the ‘power of the internet’. Until this day he argues that this whole PhD affair has been some sort of misunderstanding and can be explained by some bad referencing. If you look at the GuttePlag wiki you will be surprised to learn how much of his thesis was plagiarised! He claims that he lost the overview and could not distinguish between his own ideas and the ideas of others. Is that the sort of intellectual property or ‘open data’ policy you want to advocate with the Digital Agenda?
You have created a very interesting online community which is generally supportive of the Digital Agenda. You have an excellent social media strategy and there have been great debates online – and offline. Why did you not ask people for their opinion or listen what they have to say about Mr zu Guttenberg? Who advised you to give Mr zu Guttenberg the opportunity for another political comeback?
Well, you see, Mr zu Guttenberg is a rather controversial politican as you may have noticed if you followed the recent debates in Germany. Unfortunately, these controversies will overshadow your policy. Not all publicity is also good publicity! I am wondering whether you considered that this decision might have an affect on your own reputation – especially among your key online stakeholders?
And this brings me to my last point. His appointment is exactly the sort of EU behaviour that people hate. The EU as the exile for failed politicians that are not wanted on the national level anymore – but are desperate for some sort of important sounding job. Jobs for the boys. It is indeed sad that the Digital Agenda has become the latest example in this category.
Update 14/12/12: A response by Neelie Kroes can be found here.